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The Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage (ARCCH) is preparing a document to send to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to register the Epiphany (Timket) celebration as an intangible cultural heritage. Timket has been celebrated in Ethiopia for over 1,500 years.
The document which encompasses videos and photos of Epiphany celebrations in addition to a public acceptance signing is expected to be sent to the UNESCO office.
If UNESCO approves Ethiopia’s request, the major Timket celebrations which are observed widely in Gonder, Lalibela, Axum and Addis Ababa will be registered as intangible cultural heritage.
The eve of the celebration which is called Ketera, the major celebration, Timket, and Kana Ze Gelila which is celebrated after the day of Timket are incorporated into the document.
UNESCO’s Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage defines the intangible cultural heritage as the practices, representations, expressions, as well as the knowledge and skills (including instruments, objects, artifacts, cultural spaces), that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage.
According to Gezahegn Girma, Intangible Heritages researcher at ARCCH, the Timeket celebration meets the criteria of UNESCO and will increase tourism if it is registered.
“Before we send the documents to UNESCO we will register it locally as an intangible heritage and we hope that if the celebration is registered will become well known.
The festival of Timket falls on January19 every year. It is observed in commemoration of Jesus Christ’s baptism in River Jordan. The celebration of Timket starts on the eve of the main festival. The eve is known as ’Ketera’ and taken from the Amharic word ‘ketere’ meaning to make a dam; it is usual to make a dam in some places where there is no enough river water for the celebration of Timket.
In the afternoon of Ketera the tabots (Arks) from each of the churches are taken to a significant water body. Accompanied by a great ceremony, each tabot is carried overhead by a high priest. It is taken to spend the night there, an activity that helps in performing the Timket ceremony, usually done early in the morning the time Jesus Christ was baptized. The ceremony extends throughout the night and the next day early in the morning the Timket celebration start. The ceremony begins with the pre-sun rise rituals which include the Kidane (Morning Prayer) and the KIdasie (the divine clergy). These rituals are followed by the blessing and sprinkling of the blessed water on the assembled congregation in commemoration of Christ’s baptism.
So far UNESCO has registered Fiche Chenbelala, Meskel and Gada as intangible cultural heritages.